Keynes The Rise, Fall, and Return of the 20th Century's Most Influential Economist

Peter Clarke

Bloomsbury Press




224 Pages


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The ideas of John Maynard Keynes inspired the New Deal and helped rebuild world economies after World War II—and were later dismissed as "depression economics." Then came the great meltdown of 2008. Market forces that the world relied on suddenly failed to self-correct—and Keynes's doctrine of corrective action in an imperfect world became more relevant than ever.

Keynes was not a traditional economist: He was a polemicist, iconoclastic public intellectual, peer of the realm, and political operative, as well as an openly homosexual Bohemian who befriended Virginia Woolf and E. M. Forster. In Keynes, noted historian Peter Clarke provides a timely and masterful accounting of Keynes's life and work, bringing his genius and skepticism alive for an era fraught with economic difficulties that he surely would have relished solving.


Praise for Keynes

"[A] useful and important introduction to what a modern Keynesianism might look like . . . Clarke lays out the development of Keynes's economics from the mid-1920s to his 'General Theory,' and it's a gripping journey."—Justin Fox, The New York Times Book Review

"The historian's prose sparkles, and his book is the place to begin if you want to understand the economist's personality and charisma."—Devin Leonard, The New York Times

"The economic crisis of 2008 revived interest in Keynes, who rose to fame during the Great Depression for his alternative ideas to more radical remedies for the failures of laissez-faire capitalism. Clarke . . . responded quickly to the revival, as an author of earlier works on Keynes. In this short, readable account of Keynes's life and times, Clarke (Cambridge University) paints Keynes as a flexible pragmatist willing to alter his analysis to cope with changing circumstances. While the concepts of effective demand, liquidity preference, and the multiplier are illustrated, Clarke largely avoids the complex and controversial niceties of Keynesian theory. The culmination of Keynes's economic thought in The General Theory (1936) becomes an expression of Keynes's conviction that markets are not inherently self-correcting, especially in the short run . . . Recommended [for] general readers and undergraduate students at all levels."—R. S. Hewett, Choice magazine

"Brings the suave iconoclast to life in a succinct and balanced account . . . A lambent biography . . . Traces the evolution of Keynes' ideas."—Bloomberg News

"Robert Skidelsky, Keynes' definitive biographer, and Peter Clarke, an eminent historian who has published extensively on Keynes, have both written deft books of little more than 200 pages of text … Clarke does a more comprehensive job on the arc of Keynes' life, career, arguments, and relevance …"—Robert Kuttner, American Prospect

"[A] wonderfully lucid exposition of complicated ideas . . . Required reading."—The Guardian (UK)

"Cambridge historian Peter Clarke paints a careful portrait of the prophet whose voice was once heard only in the wilderness of social democracy . . . there are lessons aplenty to be drawn from Clarke's recitation of the facts of Keynes's life and thought—not least the lunacy of cutting government spending in tough times. A useful, timely primer."—Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Peter Clarke

  • Peter Clarke was formerly a professor of modern history and Master of Trinity Hall at Cambridge. His many books include The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire, The Keynesian Revolution in the Making, 1924-1936, and the acclaimed final volume of the Penguin History of Britain, Hope and Glory, Britain 1900-2000. He lives in Suffolk, England, and Pender Island, British Columbia.